I totally get it — sometimes it can be…difficult…to reach your target customers.
Hey! You can’t beat this deal. This product is amazing. Wait! Hello. Listen. PLZ.
You might be really wanting to reach out to someone, but if you’re not talking about something that interests them in a way they like communicating, they’ll immediately tune out. So how do you effectively get your message to your target audience?
Shayla Price explains it all.
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Episode 16: Talk Targeted to Me [Ft. Shayla Price] – Show Notes
This week’s question is:
- 10x Content
- The Content Funnel: Choosing the Right Types of Content Marketing for Every Stage of the Sales Cycle [blog post]
This week, I chatted with B2B content and email marketer Shayla Price about how to reach your target audience, no matter what their current mindset is.
She said the middle of the funnel is often overlooked and has a ton of potential for improvement, but there are ways to step up your content and communication game in all levels of the funnel.
Top of the Funnel: Best Practices for Better Understanding
Brand awareness, the initial stage of the funnel, is all about the clients you are trying to attract and how to better serve them.
What is your amazing solution to the problem they are so keen on fixing? Why is it better than the competitor? How will you make it better?
To provide better service, you need to know what your customers want. By conducting surveys, receiving insights from active customers, or scoping out the competition, you can make your product better and more appealing to a larger audience.
One thing to remember in the early stages of the funnel is differentiated learning – everybody is accustomed to different learning styles. Posting a weekly blog post that simply consists of text is not going to cut it anymore – not with today’s attention span.
To branch out, don’t be afraid to use audio and video content as well. It will give your audience a variety to choose from.
Ideal content types for this stage: Infographics, gifographics, videos, blog posts
Middle of the Funnel = Missed Opportunities
Shayla explains that the middle of the funnel is often overlooked. However, it is crucial to nurture your customers so they understand who you are, the benefits you offer, and how you can help them solve any problems they’re facing.
It is important to know the mindset of your customer as well. Shayla says that at this point of the funnel, the potential customer or client is looking for someone to put them on the right track. They are aware of their problem and are trying to decide if it’s worth solving, so they need additional information to alleviate their confusion. Be the effective solution by providing exactly what they are looking for.
A defined customer journey will assist you in that endeavor. Figure out what your company or client already has set up and see how you can improve it. (There will always be aspects that work and some that don’t.) Figure out what those gaps are and research the customer’s needs. This will help you figure out how and when to best guide them.
Ideal content types for this stage: Webinars, case studies
Optimizing the Bottom of the Funnel/Call to Action
At this point, you should know everything there is to know about your customer. Make sure they are ready to make the purchase by thinking of the content you are putting out as a conversation, focusing on their wants and needs, and ensure they are aware of the benefits you are offering.
Shayla also gave insight into email optimization, saying that timing is important. Your emails should be spaced out; you don’t want to seem spammy by sending daily emails – people will notice. Treat email communication like you would a friend; do you call your friends every single day? Tone is also crucial in email marketing, and personalization is always the way to go.
When asked about instructional guidance, Shayla put emphasis on customer needs. The best topics to discuss are the ones your customers are curious about, so mix it up and be ready to give a little bit of everything.
Ideal content types for this stage: Free trials, demos
Have a question you want to submit to the podcast?
Email me at [email protected] or comment below!
Have any additional insight on how to reach your target audience? Post it in the comments! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Amanda Milligan: Welcome to Ask Amanda About Marketing, a podcast in which I, Amanda, or occasionally a special guest, answer your questions about inbound marketing. Straightforward, right? If you want to submit a question, email me at [email protected]. I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get right to it.
I’m really happy this week to be joined by Shayla Price, who is a B2B content and email marketer who’s worked with clients like Kissmetrics, HostGator and Shopify Plus. This week, the question that she’s going to help us answer is: How can people better engage with potential customers at every stage of the funnel? So Shayla, first of all, welcome to the show.
Shayla Price: Thank you so much for having me. I’m glad to be here.
AM: And just to start, can you tell us a little bit about what you do, what your areas of expertise are, maybe some more details about the work you’ve done?
SP: So I really help my clients build funnels and content that really gets people livened up about their product. I specialize in content normally and that means writing blog posts, infographics, and all those great white papers and ebooks we get as lead magnets. I also help with the email marketing process, so writing copy and help building funnels because at the end of the day, we all want sales and that’s what I help my clients achieve.
AM: Wonderful. So I think it’s really interesting if we start out by talking about maybe some trends you’ve seen working with so many different people, so many different companies. Have you noticed that when you’re on board trying to help them move potential customers through the funnel, that there are certain stages of the funnel that maybe are the weakest that you see more commonly? What do you think the missed opportunities tend to be?
SP: I would definitely have to say the middle of the funnel is always thought of last for some reason. Everybody wants to generate content for awareness to bring people in or we’re trying to close that sale with a free trial or a demo, something of that nature. But we always forget about the middle and that’s important because we need to nurture our customers so that they understand who we are, our benefits, how we can help them, how they are a part of our brand family.
That’s the missed opportunity because you can’t just go from “Hey, I have a problem” to “Hey, buy it.” You need that middle of the funnel content, whether that’s a product webinar or a case study to really get people to learn about your brand, what you can do for them, and why this is a good investment or why do they actually need this problem solved? Just a missed opportunity time for time when I’m talking to several clients.
AM: I think that’s a great point and I like that you included some examples of what that type of content can be, like you said webinars and case studies. So what is the mindset of a customer at this stage? They’ve heard about your brand and they’re a little interested, but how would you describe their mindset at this point in the journey?
SP: This all depends on the particular company, but for some customers, they’re kind of aware that they have a problem. They bought into your lead magnet so they want some information. Now the time is, should I even solve this problem? Is it even worth my time solving? Is the money worth it? Will this provide any ROI for me later? They’re in that process of should I do this or not or even if I should do this, is your brand willing and is it capable to choose, to provide me with the best output or should I go somewhere else?
So the mindset of the customer is just “I’m confused and I need you to provide some additional information to stop the confusion and get me on the right track.” Because with anything in life, people just want to be on the right track. And that’s why I believe the customer journey is truly a journey. We need to get people and our customers on the right track to that path of hey, this is the best product and we have the solution you need to solve your problem.
AM: That’s great. And I just want to take a second to back up a little bit and look at the process as a whole. So when somebody hires you and they say, okay, we really want to build out a customer journey, maybe you have a better outside perspective on what that looks like—how do you go about making those calls? How do you define a customer journey for a client?
SP: It all starts with figuring out what they already have set up in place, what gaps are missing from that, and also doing the research to figure out what they are currently doing. Also, the customer’s needs. sometimes we go in and say, oh, this is what the company needs—we need to fix this gap or we need to fix this hole in this process—but does your customer see this? Is it is this benefiting them in that particular way?
So I come in, whether that’s in email or content, it’s just to figure out what the customer needs are and then figuring out how we can best serve them—when to best serve them and then how to best serve them. It’s just so many questions you need to ask before you can jump right in and said here, this is our customer journey.
AM: I think that’s a really great point about how companies are often thinking about where they need to fill in the gaps, rather than coming at it from a customer perspective. So, I think that’s really great insight. So when you’re at that stage, where you’re trying to figure out what potential customers are thinking, do you have any suggestions on best practices for better understanding people? We can talk about each stage of the funnel. So let’s talk about top of the funnel. What do you do in order to better understand what people who maybe not have even heard about a brand are thinking or what they’re looking for?
SP: Well, I’m always working in conjunction with my client’s teams. So first, awareness: what clients are we trying to attract and what are their needs? And that can be from surveys they’ve collected in the past or a couple current customers they may have, getting insights from them. Also looking at our competitors—whether that’s SEO research.
So doing a really good collaboration of okay, we have somebody we think might be the ideal customer. What keywords are they looking at? What other intentions are they really trying to solve? Because that’s going to drive what content and where we place that content and when we talk about this content to them. So it’s really just figuring out where I want to begin that ideal customer, that ideal individual that we want to provide our solution for, right?
AM: So when you’re doing that competitive research and say you’re finding keywords that are high-value, maybe some competitors are ranking for them. So you’re seeing that this target audience is interested in that. What is the next stage then? How do you go about creating content that’s going to—I guess a lot of people call this 10x content which is like 10 times better than what already exists—so, how do you go about making content that’s gonna surpass the value of the competitors?
SP: And that’s the number one question. I think it’s just about trial and error and also looking at what current content is out there. You know what strengths your team has. You know what your customer is trying to get solved. If we have a great keyword that we’re using, we might not just want to do a blog post. Not just want to do a 10,000-word blog post.
We have to also think about using visuals. We also have to think about how we’re going to convey that in a story and not necessarily just block them with some content about our company. What sometimes companies do is just, oh, this is a great keyword. We need a market is toward our product and that’s not necessarily the truth. Especially if there’s no awareness, these people don’t care about that product. They care about the problem and the solution that’s going to be involved.
So it’s really figuring out the intentions behind the customer and what do they want and how best to tell that story so that they not only understand but they want to be part of your journey in solving that problem for them.
AM: Yeah. I really like the focus on customer intention like you said. So you mentioned that it might not be a blog post that is the best way to move forward and telling that story. But again another important thing is that, like you said, it’s not just spewing information. You’re telling a story, especially in the awareness stage. Can you give some examples of how else that kind of communication might look like in terms of content? So maybe it’s not a blog post. But what else do you think is worth considering, at least based on your competitive research and what has worked well for the brand in the past? What do you think are some other options in terms of the type of content you can generate in the awareness stage?
SP: That can be an infographic or the new GIF graphics that people are using. That can be a video and think about this as a conjunction of all this—so you might have the keyword you might have a short intro of 500 words. Then you might have the video that goes along and then you’re putting graphics in between things. It’s not just one or the other—it’s combining all that. It’s also thinking about the learning styles of your customers because some of them don’t want to read to be honest or that might not be their best learning style? They might prefer video, they might prefer audio, they might just prefer being told the story through images only.
That’s not a good or bad thing for your customer because that’s the perfect thing you need to know so that you can say, my customer likes videos because of this, I need to provide more videos. So you just got to adapt and the best way to I guess find their learning styles is 1) ask—do you prefer us write blog posts or do you prefer us to do short videos? Just be aware of who you’re trying to serve and don’t go the easy route in writing a thousand-word blog posts. Sometimes it might be better to write up a script and get some audio and visuals to it. So go with the flow of your customer and it would be it would definitely benefit your company.
AM: It’s so funny. Sometimes it is as simple as literally just asking. I think people forget that you can just directly ask whoever was reading your blog already or who you are already emailing and I completely agree about the learning styles. It’s part of the reason we’re doing this podcast and I have a small confession that I actually don’t listen to a lot of podcasts because I don’t learn the audio as well as I do visually and through reading.
It was interesting finding that out. I was like, why would I listen to podcasts, I get so distracted and you know, I’m not really picking up on the information. So I’m staying on the blog post train, but it’s something we definitely noticed even just producing these. Some people really just want to hear the information.
They retain it much better and then we do the show notes for those who are like me and who need more of the reading components. So it’s super interesting and probably something that’s often overlooked in terms of generating content like you said.
SP: It’s crazy because that’s what we expect in the educational system classroom differentiated learning. That should also be part of any marketing process of when we’re producing content. Differentiated learning—how would our customers learn and we need to provide those different outlets.
AM: Yeah, absolutely. So we talked a little bit about top of the funnel and you did mention some options for middle of the funnel, but when you’re creating those webinars and case studies—case studies, I would assume, it’s just whatever is performed the best you’re going to do a case study on to make your point. But in terms of webinars, more instructional things, how do you go about deciding what the best topics that are going to be? Do you use the same approach? Do you ask your audience? Do you do competitive research? What is your process there?
SP: That process is sometimes competitive research. But also where are they in the funnel. Of course, we might say top, middle, and the end, but we know there’s all the little things in between there, right? So this is where segmentation plays a good role, whether that’s email or just in the customer journey. What are these customers doing in your journey? Are they answering your emails? Did they download all your lead magnets? Are they contacting support with questions a lot? And then using that data from the customer to take them to the next step.
So that might be a product webinar. That might be more intense educational webinar. That might be a case study if you are learning insights from them and your company is more geared toward like a tech company. Maybe you’re providing a key study on that compared to if you had a different client, it would be something totally different. So at this point in the stage is really getting to know your customer and taking all those behaviors and information that they’re giving you so that you’re producing content that’s fitted for them.
AM: So it sounds like a lot of this is just listening and paying attention to what’s already going on.
SP: Yes, definitely listening to your customer can really be helpful and then recording that, documenting that I think that’s the issue that some companies have—we’re listening but nobody’s writing this down, right? Nobody has this information, this data stored in a way that can be useful for us when we’re building this content and that’s important.
So in the middle of the funnel, always think about how you can segment your customers so that you’re not just providing that one webinar for everybody, that one case study for everybody. It’s the time now to give everybody unique experiences.
AM: That’s it. That’s a fantastic point. Do you have suggestions? I’m imagining some people listening, you’re probably thinking yes, I really wanted to keep track of this stuff but I already don’t have enough time as it is. I already don’t have enough resources or whatever it is. Do you have suggestions for those people on maybe tools or whatever strategies you use to keep track of so many segments in the middle of the funnel and how people are behaving in order to refer back to it?
SP: Well, that would just depend on their your CRM or the marketing automation platform you’re using. Of course, some companies, we’re not trying to get granular to, you live in the United States, you live in Florida, you live in Ft. Lauderdale. But some companies are never going to get that granular, but you should decide with your team, on some spectrums of what you want you to know about your customer that is helpful for getting your customer to the end goal of making that sell.
Those attributes should be always in your mind and then collect that information throughout that journey, whether that’s when they picked up their lead magnet, they want to learn about XYZ. I need to take that attribute. They need to learn about this and just taking it and just recording it. And of course, there’s a ton of CRMs and platforms out there. I think you just have to pick one that’s best suited for your company from a user standpoint—whoever’s going to be using it on the team. Also, expenses, for your bottom line and just something that’s going to be powerful and robust so that you can get the job done and make a sale.
AM: Definitely. So does all this similar process apply for the bottom of the funnel? We’re talking, you know, some of the more common things are probably free trials like you mentioned earlier. Is this also a matter of listening to your customer, how they behaved until this point? Maybe what webinars they saw, what leads you to decide maybe what that call to action is going to be at the bottom of the funnel.
SP: Yes, now we need to know: Are they ready to make this purchase? And giving them another step in the process. So and also thinking of content, sometimes you might think a demo or a free trial may help, but we also need to think about how our customer support is interacting with them, what language they’re using, what content they’re conveying? How our sales reps are talking to them? What content are they providing to them at that stage of the funnel?
So really getting to the next step of saying, we know everything about you. We have the solution that is awesome and great. It can help you with this. Just getting to know them and giving the information back to them. But also telling them all about, you may have customer support, there’s often 24/7—give them the other additional benefits with your company.
When I think of content, I don’t think of it as a blog post, infographic—when I think of content, I think of conversation and I want the conversation, from the beginning to the end, to be everything geared toward my client and everything I can provide for them. And that’s what I want my other companies to do as well.
AM: I love that point about treating it like a conversation. When you’re getting involved with this communication, how do you come to learn the voice that you should use? Especially, let’s talk about email because to me, email is one of those mediums where the conversation feels or can feel the most direct, the most personal, because like you said if you’re doing segmentation correctly, it does seem like you’re reaching out and speaking to them individually.
So aside from maybe being good at the segmentation portion of it, what other tips do you have in terms of optimizing your email marketing at these various stages?
SP: I think, of course, segmentation is great. But you also need to know, for example, lead scoring—you need to know the behaviors that are taking people to the next step in the funnel. You need to know when somebody, quote-unquote, became a “lead” in your eyes? What actions have they taken? Have they opened seven emails? Have they downloaded 5 content upgrades? Have they contacted customer support with particular questions? I think that’s helpful in email marketing so that you can then gear your campaign.
And one thing too that I find very weird about email marketing is that people always go with the generic timeframe of, I’m gonna send an email today. I’m gonna send an email tomorrow. I’m going to send the email the next day—it’s day after day. In real life, we don’t have conversations like this. Unless you’re my best friend, I’m not calling you every day. If we were a call center, we wouldn’t contact these people every day, right? You wouldn’t do it, it’ll get annoying.
So you need to space it out—timing is so important in email marketing that’s not even talked about as much as it should be. So if I contacted you today—especially with welcome campaigns—if I contact you today, you may be thinking, you can wait two or three days and then you have to have a rhythm. It doesn’t need to be one day after another and I think that’s important when you optimize because people are ready to unsubscribe. They know where that button is.
AM: Right, this comes up I feel like in a lot of these podcast episodes because maybe people still perceive email because you’re not looking at the person, they’re like, it’s not as personal or I can email more because it’s a little less direct. But that’s not really true because that’s the main source of communication for a lot of people now.
Even my best friend is not calling me every day, right, so email is when I’m checking constantly. It’s not as if it goes unnoticed. I will notice if somebody’s emailing me every single day and it’s definitely going to start annoying me if they’re flooding my inbox so that’s a great point. It almost always can be fixed by thinking, how would I do this if I were looking at the person—like if this person was in the room with me—how should I approach this? You’re absolutely right that email is not exempt.
SP: If content is really a conversation, just time everything and think of every communication you have with somebody as if it were a direct one-on-one conversation. Would you say that to a person and would you say that content in person to someone if you’re talking to them directly? You have to think about that. It’s just the human side of us.
Dealing with technology makes us let technology rule and that shouldn’t be the case. We are humans—be human. Treat everything like a date if you need to. If someone emailed you after a date back to back (laughs)—treat it like that.
AM: I think that analogy continues if somebody reaches out to you out of the blue, you know, I could be like, why are you doing this? It just doesn’t make any sense. That’s a whole other topic in terms of outreach and outreaching people via email. Based on what we were just talking about, I wanted to ask what your opinion was about chatbots and that sort of new trend of people waiting on a site and you either you or a bot, somebody immediately reaching out to them. Like what are your thoughts on that?
SP: I think everything every piece of technology can serve its purpose. It’s again, thinking about how we can use this in an effective way so that we can solve a problem for the customer. So chatbots in the beginning stages, I see some of them are not working well. It’s just an automated system we put up with a new name. So, once we really learn human behavior, that’ll get the chat box to another level.
I think it’ll be great because there are some that are very helpful, that give you the image of a product and you can click on it and you get they give you the price and then you can buy all within it. I think that serves a particular purpose but that might not be best for the awareness stage. That might be for the person who knows your company already, who bought this product already, who just need to re-up on their product right now.
But I think like anything that’s new, we want to use chatbots. But you want to use it all for every different stage and that might not be where the technology is at right now. I know there’s also writers who are being hired for chatbot systems so they can provide more human-like responses. I think in due time, it’ll be great for every stage of the funnel, for every customer. But right now, I find it best if the person is already a customer—you’re just re-engaging them and they need to purchase your product again because they know your brand.
AM: Yeah. It’s funny every time there’s a new trend, you’re absolutely right. It’s like everybody just dives into it and are very excited about it and maybe aren’t being very strategic in how they’re implementing it. It’s really interesting—this ongoing balance between wanting to differentiate from everybody else while not being too intrusive, right?
So chatbots, messaging and Facebook messaging, texting. It’s just a really interesting topic to me because maybe if you’re in that first tier of people who are getting into it, it might freak somebody out to get it for the first time but ultimately, I do think that when things start developing, people come up with better tactics for how to use it. It levels out and becomes way more effective, but it’s just fascinating how some of these things develop and become the new normal and then we need something else. We need something else that’s gonna break the normalcy.
SP: I think that’s why with chatbots or any technology, marketers and businesses come in and train ourselves—I got this new technique and how to use it. But they forget to train the customers on how to use. The customer is like, what’s this? I guess I’ll just call them.
AM: Shayla, it seems like this whole podcast episode is about listening to the customer and not just focusing on your own team and your own brand and remembering that you’re serving a purpose for them and not just implementing tactics for the fun of it.
I want to backtrack a bit about the point you made—when you’re in the bottom of the funnel, it’s not just about the marketing team anymore. It’s about implementing other teams, incorporating the sales team. What are some of your suggestions on how to do that? How do I keep internal communications seamless so that you’re all on the same page when you do have a potential customer who you think is ready to make that purchase?
SP: And I think this is great because everybody needs to be on the same page so the customer is not repeating himself or herself. Decide on a system that works where we can see the customer journey, and again—that might be a couple platforms for all the teams to work in. But also, make it a point where all these teams are meeting, whether that’s once a week or once a month, to discuss how you’re interacting, integrating all your activities.
Be honest with yourself on what’s lacking sometimes because this is an entire journey, it’s a lot of customers and this is all about teamwork. So if marketing is not doing well, sales is not going to do well. If customer success is not doing well, it’s going to hurt sales sometimes. So have a team mindset and then work in a platform so that you can see everything about that customer.
So we need to know when they download that lead magnet, we need to know when they inquired to your customer support staff of, what’s the difference between X and Y and what can I do with each. They need to know so when sales gets to it, they had questions about that, what was that answer, and clarify that for them again. They download this lead magnet. Okay, they want to know that information, make sure I reiterate that.
So that we’re just bringing the whole journey—this is the best solution for them because they went through the entire process. It’s almost like going through college or high school—you did 9th to 12th grade. It just makes sense for you to go with us because you’ve been through the process.
AM: And it would be such a shame if they got to the end and it breaks down because there’s not internal communication going on like that would be the worst, right? So it just makes sense. You’re providing them with that gratification to be like, thank you. You’ve done all the steps necessary to solve this problem. We need you, you’re about to graduate. Here’s this product, purchase it from us, and we’ll take you to the next level. So it’s just, you know, just keeping a conversation is always good.
AM: Yeah, so the lesson here is don’t drop the ball right at the end, guys. Make sure that you’re talking to your coworkers and that everyone is on the same page.
SP: Yeah for me personally, that’s the worst thing to be on a sales call and I think, this is good. You know, I got this information and then they say, did you hear about this? You should know I heard about this because that should be in your platform. I’m talking them through the same conversation over and over. Nobody wants to go through that same process every time they’re speaking to your staff on your team.
AM: Yeah. It’s like a friend telling you the same story over and over again. So we’re almost out of time but I did want to ask—I saw that you give talks sometimes about customer or user-generated content and I’d love to hear a bit about that and maybe what level of the funnel that makes the most sense for.
SP: So yeah, love talking about user-generated content. It’s one of my best friends in marketing. You need to have user-generated content at all stages of the funnel, you need those pictures showing people with your product having a good time. Maybe at the awareness stage. Then you might have a great review at the middle of a funnel—they gave you five-star review because of X, Y, and Z benefits. Then at the end, you might have a video showing your actual customer talking to your potential customer about the benefits, about what they have accomplished.
So, user-generated content should be used at every stage. Most people use it at the awareness stage to grab that audience. But if you continue to use it throughout the funnel and throughout the journey, it really can be a great benefit to you.
AM: So what are some ways to encourage your potential customers or current customers to contribute to that information? Say, for example, the reviews are going to be crucial for you at the middle of the funnel. How do you reach out to them and kind of prompt them to do that?
SP: First, have a happy customer. I want you to just reach out to every customer. So first, happy customer. Second, tell them about the benefit of highlighting their journey, their story with your product because again, it’s not about you. You’re just highlighting a success story. So provide them with—we’ve seen that you had such great success with our product you can you answer this question to give us some more detail.
We’re going to tell your story through our email or through our marketing, things of that nature—people want to be a part of the success of another successful company. So I think reaching out like that instead of asking, can you provide a review—no. Can you be part of my success story?
AM: That makes total sense. I think that’s a great way to position it because I did a lot of it’s just how you ask. Well Shayla, thank you again so much for being on the show. I think you provided a lot of really excellent insights for people. If anybody listening has any questions, feel free to comment on the blog post. I’ll be posting at frac.tl/blog and I’ll be sure to relay the questions to Shayla, but Shayla, thank you again.
SP: Thank you so much.
AM: Thanks again for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, click subscribe. Don’t leave me with the realization that I’m talking to no one and please rate and review on iTunes so I can keep making this podcast better and your lives easier. Take care.
How can people better engage with potential customers at every stage of the funnel?
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